Tales from IMAD (India’s largest MOOC)

Hasura, in close collaboration with IITM and NPTEL, recently launched an open-for-all, free online course intended for aspiring developers, students and professionals.

Introduction to Modern Application Development or IMAD, was expected to bridge the technical gaps that deter so many people from implementing their ideas. It was also a humble attempt to rethink the way engineers learn programming, to move away from the ad-hoc, experimental journey of a developer to a more structured, first-principles approach with a solid grounding in CS fundamentals.

Although only time (and repeated iterations) will tell us how far we have been successful in these lofty goals, the initial response to IMAD has been spectacular! The Youtube lectures have seen more than 248,000 views, which already translates to 980 man-hours spent learning! The discussion forums are abuzz with activity. Discourse has seen hundreds of questions being posted and answered (mostly by peers), more than 50 active discussions and greater than 30,000 views.

Students’ Experiences

People with little or no experience in programming have followed the lectures with remarkable patience and actually built their first web-apps.

Here’s what Sanajahan’s first app on Github looks like -

People have built their own personal web-pages from scratch in a couple of hours.

Kuharan Bhowmik says “Inspected Some basic elements of Facebook and developed my profile page.

PS: I am not a web app developer and this took me few hours lol.”

IMAD is for everyone, from stay-at-home moms ..

.. to Harry Potter enthusiasts!

THANKS IMAD! this is a wonderful course!” — Aditya_bisht

Students have tried out networking experiments and traced the quirky routes of packets as they traverse the web. A request to the University of Basel IP follows this route for instance -

India — Singapore — New York — Sweden — France — Switzerland!

Collaborative Learning

IMAD students have also gone to great lengths to help each other out and the spirit of cooperative learning is evident when we see participants resolving queries even before we can respond. We would like to thank all of you for making this effort without which the learning experience for many of the participants would be greatly undermined.

The user “chatan” for instance, created an extremely useful and detailed guide to installing and using Git on Windows, complete with steps to follow and screenshots like these -

Story so far & Lessons Learnt -

Currently in its 4th week, IMAD has so far covered basics of how the internet works, the building blocks of a web app and a series of practical modules. These practical tutorials introduce fundamentals of web servers, networks, Javascript, Nodejs, HTML and CSS, covering both server side and client side programming. The latest videos deal with relational databases and modelling constraints in your schema. We will move on to Performance and Security issues in the coming weeks.

Hasura has provided a simple console for users to write code, commit to Github and deploy the application from Github directly on the server on their sub-domain. This environment was designed to make sure that students do not face too many issues with configuring their development environment. We have discovered that students have preferred the hands-on flavour of the lectures and like to build things. The feedback on the lectures has validated our initial assumption that the traditional, dry and academic introduction to CS and programming has very few takers. People need to be able to relate theoretical concepts to real world applications and get their hands dirty.

We have learnt a lot over the last few weeks. The excitement among the students has been palpable and the sheer drive to learn that so many young people have is inspiring. We are flooded with requests for the next video as soon as we publish the latest lecture and we are scrambling to keep up. We have found that the approach we took towards designing the content for the course was correct, insofar as it focussed on doing stuff and learning with real-world scenarios. We have also discovered that people are willing to share, help others and learn in a collaborative fashion. Thanks for all your support!

And in case you have any queries, just Ask Madi! :)

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